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Let’s Hear it for the Bonbons!

All about candy blog postSour, salty, chewy, gummy, slimy and even spicy. The world of sweets is more varied than most people imagine.

We’ve had a few posts about business and a few about babes, which means what this blog really needs is a bloody post about sweets!

As you may have heard, humans are born craving sweet. The theory is that millions of years ago our ape ancestors picked the sweetest, most sugar ridden fruits to survive, because they provided the most energy. Millions of years later most Homo Sapiens from developed nations have been left with the sugar craving but have lost the lifestyle to burn through the calories, causing health consequences and an uncountable number of liquid based fad diets, bikini body challenges and infomercials.

Given our predisposition to vacuum up anything sweet that we spy, it’s not surprising that the idea of ‘sweets’ has been around since the ancient Egyptians started coating fruit in honey.

But it took until sugar became cheaper and easily accessible in the 19th century for sweets to really take off and morph into the amaze-balls array of colours and flavours that we cherish today.

I started Sarkara’s sweet collection with an internet search on ‘the world’s best candy’. Having travelled a bit I’d tried A LOT of sweets (I walked it off I swear) and had picked up a permanent hankering for the Mexican salty & spicy explosive candy flavours. But I had not tried every candy out there and thought the internet was a good place to start. Which led me to this list:

http://au.complex.com/pop-culture/2012/10/best-candies-around-the-world/mr-fizzy

*Note NZ’s very own Pineapple Lumps and the humble chocolate fish are numbers 2 & 3 on the list (I question the chocolate fish, but fully agree on the Lumps)

Sarkara proudly boasts a number of these treats such as Duvalin (Mexico), Tyrkisk Peber (Finland), Botan Rice Candy (Japan), Carambar (France) and a few more. Interestingly, we had Salsaghetti from Mexico which is on the list (watermelon noodles with spicy sauce, yup you read that correctly) and everyone said it was gross, even Mexicans.

I remember a customer popped into Sarkara to helpfully tell me that my store was bullshit and overpriced compared to his dairy, and that all lollies are basically the same ingredients. Well, that’s simply not true. I’ve printed many ingredients labels for our gift boxes and I can tell you that it involved a crazy amount of labels and an ever decreasing sized font to fit the range of ingredients in. Yes, the main ingredient unsurprisingly is sugar and many share similar make up. But not all sweets contain green tea, or liquorice root, dairy or tamarind.

So ya sucks-boo to the man who told me my store was a waste of time and to whom in response I kindly offered a sample sweet, instead of quoting my above argument – I’ve finally showed you!

The other thing with sweets is that they’re unhealthy. There’s no sugar coating that fact, sweets are basically nutritional vacuums. But and there’s a massive but it’s not candy that’s killing us or our teeth. It’s all the other crap we shovel into our faces. As a one pretty credible book on candy points out:[1]

“Even in a culture that eats sweets frequently, candy is not a significant source of nutrition or food energy for most people. The average American eats about 1.1 kg (2.5 pounds) of sugar or similar sweeteners each week, but almost 95% of that sugar—all but about 70 grams (2.5 ounces)—comes from non-candy sources, especially soft drinks and processed foods.”

The sugary sweets I unashamedly ply on children, the elderly and adults is a treat. They’re not the sugar laced muesli bars or cereals that someone eats every day. The most a customer comes into store is once a week, and that’s normally just to buy five Jolly Ranchers. So if you’re listening Government and looking for a new scape goat after you’re done with the smokers, I Jennifer Browne hand on heart pinky swear to you, it’s not Sarkara that’s killing our nation. It’s more likely to be Sanitarium, and you don’t even make them pay tax.

It’s nice to have treats, it makes you feel good, and in a world where people seem so angry, stressed and worried about so many things, it’s nice to think that for ten minutes of their day they can devour something that may remind them of their youth, or that enables them to reminisce about a country they visited once or even if it simply allows them to forget that the Kardashian’s take up all of our ‘News’ pages.

So call me biased but, let’s hear it for bonbons and all they offer the world!

Finally, if you were wondering – English bonbons (especially blue raspberry ones) are the most popular sweet in store, followed by Jolly Ranchers (only yummy in Vodka if you ask me) and gummy bears.

 

[1] Kawash, Samira (2013). Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. New York: Faber & Faber, Incorporated. p. 11.

 

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Poker facing a boss and rambling like a Womble

Help wanted sign funnyA rant about the youth, advice on how to get a job and my opinion on what makes a good boss.

Taking up the thread from last week’s post. I’ve managed to find one (and now two) stellar team members. But it hasn’t been an easy road for Sarkara in terms of finding awesome employees.

I’m not sure if it’s just me but I absolutely struggle with the level of communication I encounter with those born just before or after the turn of this century. With two of my employees I swear it was like we were speaking another language.

Normally, when being spoken to, the other party reciprocates by moving their face in ways that reflect things such as understanding, confusion, disgust, dismay etc. But with these two I just got stared at blankly. That’s bloody hard to work with, I had to remember back to my English teaching days and ask them to repeat the message I had just relayed, to ensure comprehension.

I’ve decided to blame texting. You see those who were raised in the technological age, have not had to communicate with people on the same level as those who were forced to use their faces. Which has created a generation of kids who on the upside will never fear wrinkles, because of their lack of facial movements, but who’ll sadly struggle to read other people, or express themselves non-verbally.

Now, before I continue my rant, I fully acknowledge that no one is likely to see Sarkara as his or her ‘forever job’ (whatever the hell that means). My general managerial speech goes “look, if you give a slight shit about this store, then I promise to give a massive shit about you and generally try to bend over backwards to ensure you’re happy.”

But I’ve encountered more than a few who honestly believe we, as a world, owe them a job. These are the people who phone in to say their stomach’s hurting an hour before their shift, or manage to achieve nothing in the store that requires them lifting themselves from a stool. These are the people who, when I have to lay down the law, say “yeah this job isn’t really for me, I think I’m better with a cruisy admin job while I study.” (I’m actually still bitter about this, as it felt like she had broken up with me, before I could break up with her).

Don’t hate the job hate your apathy – tips to get ahead

The bottom line is there are skills to be learnt anywhere, regardless of your job title. If you’re young and just staring out, it’s wise to remember that, despite you being an absolutely amazing individual with so much to offer to an employer you’re just a piece of paper in a pile of post-graduate job applications which all say vaguely the same things, in the same font, on the same type of paper. Which means you’ll need to find a way to stand out.

For example, given my work history gave the impression I was running from the law, I decided to create a CV which would mask my flaws yet ensure I stood out (see image) and it actually worked.

Your other option is to find experience anywhere and in anything. For example a Sarkara employee could easily walk away with promotional, marketing, web, retail, stock management and social media experience. But only if they want it, and only if they’re prepared to put themselves out there to grab it.

Facebook CV

It may not actually be you it may be me

So now I’m done tearing down the youth like the old foggy I’ve become. It’s time for some self-truths. I’m a bloody crap manager! I’m good in the sense that I genuinely worry for the well being of my team. I care about their lives, I’m proud of their success and most of all I’m grateful for them showing up each day.

But I always feel like my team has Charlie Brown as a boss, this wishy, washy individual who talks too much, screams in late and rambles like a Womble. I’m so bogged down getting my stuff done that I forget to organise, prioritise and delegate in a cohesive manner. Which leads me to my aspiration list of how to be a good boss:

  1. Clear expectations – people know what they have to do, how they will succeed at it and the timeframe in which to complete it.
  2. Approachable – don’t bully, besiege or badger. To get the most out of your team you need to be willing and able to hear what they’re struggling with at work and then be open to their solutions.
  3. Organised – If you’re organised you can delegate efficiently, which means you can coach and encourage your team to tackle challenging and new tasks. Keeping them happy, and your workload lighter, win, win!
  4. Finally, I think a good manager always remembers that they’re not owed anything. Just as no one is owed a job, no one is owed a good employee. You have to earn that by being the above points and more.

Now I feel I’ve put the job market in its place I can rest easy.

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How to not do a to-do list

Blog post on to do listsAlthough many of us manage to not do much in a day. If you want to become especially proficient at it, simply have a baby.

Since Jax was born I don’t think a day has gone by where I’ve actually managed to achieve any of the plans I’d aimed to tick off that day. It’s not even that I have set particularly lofty tasks. It can be things like printing off price signs for the store, designing a poster, or peeing in the morning, and yet most, if not all of them end up on a never-ending to-do tomorrow list.

Nothing ever goes to plan with a baby in tow. Whenever I’ve thought Jax had a napping, feeding or pooing schedule he’d celebrate my naivety by changing it as soon as I’d planned my day around it.

For the first few months of his life, I’d get incredibly stressed about my lack of business achievement. Mixed with extreme tiredness, there were many days when I completely despaired and would desperately look for ways I could sell the business to be free of that additional pressure. Unfortunately in order to sell a business you need to prepare it for sale, and that alone takes a lot of work. Which meant there were many days when I simply sat breast-feeding, feeling trapped and paralysed by my business.

But things have gotten better, I’ve learnt to get things done while half concentrating on Jax and half concentrating on my laptop. You can tell this by reading my sent emails and discovering that not a single one of them is free from multiple spelling or grammatical errors.

But mainly it has gotten better thanks to those around me. My Mum has stepped up and taken on a starring role in the business. And probably much to both our surprise, it has resulted in hardly any plate-throwing rows. In fact her skills and different approach, an understanding of new demographics have been invaluable to our growth.

Mum’s assistance has shown me that no matter how much you believe your way is the right way, someone else’s ideas are key to strengthening a business model.

I’d strongly advise solo-business owners to find someone with a fresh outlook to at some point become invested in their business. This could be as simple as taking the time to listen to your employees’. But in my opinion if growth is what you’re after, you’d be better off taking on a business partner, as this carries are far heavier burden of emotional investment.

All right, now back to me. The upshot is, I’ve been extremely lucky to be gifted with a Mum with an array of talents, who has willingly taken much of the stress and burden of the business away from me, while I’m tied up wiping off the incredibly wide variety of different coloured poos coming out of my baby’s tiny bum.

The final key to Sarkara surviving my inability to do, to-do lists is having found a fantastic employee. She’s customers focussed, a cleaning machine, mature in her outlook on life and possess a great eye for detail. Which gives her the capability to be very aware of all the errors in my emails!

Pretty much I’ve hit the employer jackpot. But as most business owners can tell you, she is a little needle of glitter in a haystack of potential employees.

So if you’ve got time, join me next week as I take you through some of the interesting bumps in my road to landing a pretty damn close to perfect employee. To give you a little teaser, it will include someone not locking the shop at night, another one who refused to use an adult’s voice and someone who managed to get a customer to storm out within literally two minutes of working.

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Mind the Baby Bunnies

Baby bunny pictureIt’s impossible to describe to a rookie what the first week of life is like with a newborn.

You’re sore, scared and oh so unimaginably tired and yet there is this tiny human, with tiny hands and disproportionately giant lungs demanding every ounce of your energy.

I remember the first night we got him home, both me and my partner Rhys were in a dreamlike state where it felt like we were playing pretend adults. It took around seven nights for us to fully realise that there was no such thing as taking a break from being a parent. In the first weeks of a baby’s life it is an all encompassing, never ending cycle of tears, strain, red eyes, dark circles and emotional upheaval as you adjust to your new life.

My wee man was demanding from the get go. Feeding wasn’t a thing I did frequently during my day; it was my entire day and night non-stop for hours at a time. Although the store was thankfully shut after Christmas, stock was badly needed and I ended up propping him on a pillow to constantly feed while I winced my way through bleeding cracked nipples and worked on my laptop in bed.

Emotionally I think I went to my darkest place in his first week of life, and yet conversely I think I found the best part of me in discovering an ability to love and protect someone else in a way that I never thought possible.

Whenever Jax was crying I’d find myself welling up too, sniffling to my partner about how tiny and vulnerable he was and how I just wanted desperately to make him feel o.k.

As I hid away in a cave feeding, crying and whinging for his first three weeks of life, my family and especially my partner selflessly supported me. Running around after me and patiently putting up with the emotional wreck that was hibernating in a room tied to a baby. It was during this week that I felt the most respect for women who have babies without a lot of support. The inner strength they must have is awe-inspiring.

It was also during this week that I marvelled at how mankind has survived. Babies are wondrous creatures, but lets face it, they are pretty useless. I mean their only survival attribute is an emotionally strung out mother who would struggle to defend herself against an aggressive Sloth let alone win out in the wild against a Lion. How on Earth have we survived? Jax is now seven months old and I still think if I pitted him against a baby bunny rabbit, it would be a tough battle.

Not surprisingly Sarkara was put on the back burner during Jax’s first weeks of life (when I say weeks I mean months). But my humble advice for new mothers who are also business owners is that it has to be this way. Nothing, and I mean nothing is as important as you and that baby. My business was not irreparably broken when I resurfaced from my haze. But if mums don’t take the time to ensure their mental and physical health there is a chance that something will be irreparably damaged.

Also and I can’t stress this enough, don’t be pressured into living by all the ‘rules’ of being a newborn’s Mum. Pretty much stay off the crack, smokes and more than the odd glass of booze and concentrate on keeping your child fed – that’s it, nothing else is important.

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Baby Wails and Mummy Tears

I’m not sure there’s any way I can explain to you just how surreal childbirth is.

Four days of being a Mum
Four days of being a Mum

When it was finally time to give birth I was a mess. Ever conscious of not being told off, I’d waited and waited before going to the hospital. By the time I got there I was dehydrated and weak.

I’d dreamed of having a bath in the birthing ‘suite’ then calmly pushing my baby into the world in a similar fashion to how I determinedly do that extra five push ups at the end of a set.

Well, like hell! I was exhausted and in excruciating pain. Never one to embrace nudity I thought I’d be coy about people seeing me naked. That was the last thing on my mind. By the time I was in hospital anyone and everyone that was able to administer drugs was more than welcome in the room.

I was bloody begging for the epidural, and after being fobbed off for what felt like the gestation period of an elephant someone finally came in to stab me.

Jump to four hours later, as the epidural buzz rapidly faded it had finally dawned on me that my mid-wife was a bullshitter. Every time I’d finished pushing with every ounce of me, I’d hear “he’s nearly here, one more push should do it!” After having heard this for the last 20 pushes in a row, I’d realised it was all a ruse to make me keep pushing. It was at this moment when I thought fuck it I give up.

As I lay there having decided that I’d prefer to have the baby tomorrow, I hear my midwife say “looks like I’ll have to do a wee snip to get him out” as she trotted off to the scissor area.

Well, she should’ve said that four hours prior, it was all the motivation I needed. With one massive grunting effort I heroically pushed out our wee man thanks to my fear of being cut open alive.

After that everything was a blur of blood and tears (both baby’s and mine). I vaguely remember sleeping for what must have been two hours. I woke up and hazily gazed at this tiny creature beside me. It all seemed so surreal; I think the nurses were assuming that I was in charge of this pint-sized human. They didn’t check in on me very often which obviously meant they had some kind of misguided faith in me being able to know what to do.

All I felt capable of doing was sleeping for two days. I have never, ever been so physically and psychologically drained. Then I heard a wee wail come from the bassinet and it was in this moment, as I instinctively went to pick him up and feed him that I learnt my life would never just be about fulfilling my needs again.

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Open for Opinions

The opinion shop image

There are three things that I possessed in 2015 which equated to an ‘opinions wanted’ sign on my forehead.

  1. a small business
  2. an outwardly extroverted personality, and
  3. a growing pregnant belly.

There is something about being a perceived extrovert which signals to others that you can handle whatever criticism or ‘advice’ they have for you. That due to your obvious desire to be the loudest in any situation you are therefore made of unbreakable putty.

The truth is that it’s often those who seem the most confident in a room who are struggling the most in terms of anxiousness in situations. You see, the noise from their mouths stops the anxiety from reaching their brains, taking over and forcing them to curl up into the fetal position in a corner.

It’s my big obnoxious mouth which seems to indicate opinions are welcome about any aspect of me, anything from my dress sense, to my dwarf-like stature, and yes, obviously to my crazy candy business idea.

Don’t misunderstand me, I honestly have received some great advice, and I really appreciate fresh ideas on how to better my business. But I think we all need to understand that often people are incredibly aware of what’s wrong with their businesses.

Give an entrepreneur a million dollars and ten employees, including a graphic designer, a marketing expert and an IT guru and I’m sure we’d see marked improvements in their businesses.

But many people like myself have started up a business with limited money and limited people to do it all. So although ideas and advice are often welcome, I beg that those on the outside looking in spare harsh judgements on a business owner’s intelligence and capabilities.

Because the reality is, most of us are already rocking ourselves to sleep with an ever-increasing list of things that could be improved.

However, if you are really looking to hear opinions and comments then become a baby grower.

In 2015 I heard gems such as “well, enjoy wearing the high-heels while you can” or my personal favourite “I didn’t realise you were pregnant, but I did think your face had gotten fat.”

But probably the pregnancy conversation that stuck with me the most was when I boldly stated to a customer that I was hoping to keep running my business post birth.

In response she, smiled (or smirked, I’m still not sure which) and said that it was the kind of naïve thing she’d stated before having her daughter, and since then she’d left her career to become a full time Mum and that her eight-year-old daughter was her universe, just as my son would be mine.

I mulled this comment over for ages, wondering whether after I’d finished being an incubator I’d also innately swear an oath to serve my son and nothing but my son so help me God.

But guess what? After his birth, despite my world somewhat being dictated by his needs, my business is still very much a priority. Not because I love my son less, or more, or anything of the like but just because that’s who I am and how I live life. It turns out we are all different, and that’s just fine.

There is only one opinion that I heard while pregnant which really turned out to be 100% accurate – “Don’t be afraid of an epidural hurting. By the time you need one, that pain will seem like a fairy kiss in comparison.”

So if you’re pregnant and reading this, I’m going to add an additional comment for you to note down:

You look perfect, and I’m really sorry you’re so tired, unable to drink coffee, drink wine, eat sushi, ham or really good cheese and exercise comfortable.

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Wonderful, weird and lovely people

Despite whining my way through the last few blog posts. Being pregnant isn’t all that bad.

 

I think pleWonderful people imagenty of woman thrive on the feeling of feminine fertility and actually adore pregnancy.  Although I’d never use the words ‘adore’ and ‘pregnancy’ in the same sentence, I have to say there is something really fascinating about watching your skin stretch that quickly, and the whole having a baby thing has made me so fantastically satisfied and proud of my body.

I stopped looking at my body with pure vanity and started seeing it as a really cool, functional and a down-right awe inspiring thing.

But the point of this post is to move away from pregnancy and talk about a phenomenon of the store which to be honest I didn’t expect. The realisation that people are awesomely wondrous.

I’m sure a lot of people imagine a candy store full of teenage candy fiends revelling in their youthful exuberance for bright colours and sugar. But the beauty of Sarkara is that anyone and everyone is enticed in by  the  array of bright colours.  And despite having preached sayings such as “never judge a book by its cover”, it took being in Sarkara for me to turn all the pages of the books and realise it’s fully true.

Some of the nicest, most genuinely humble people I have met have been the ones who I assume a lot of society would deem to be the opposite. As a business we have a policy of treating anyone that walks into the store with respect and a bit of happy love – after all it’s a lolly store and we are a big part of the magic.

What has saddened me the most in my customer service experience, is that customers who look a tad different are actually surprised to be treated with respect instead of suspicion. What on Earth would I know about their lives to be able to judge them? It’s actually not my business, just as my past and my sins are not theirs (we’ll actually as a business owner I feel they have more right to judge me than I do them).

I’ve had all sorts walk into Sarkara. Teenage girls (who are always far nicer than I ever was at that age), suits looking for gifts, tattooed candy fans, construction workers, older ladies and politicians. All of them interesting, a very few of them slightly rude, but every single one of them absolutely worth my time and energy.

Sarkara is something of a bar, we listen to our customers. We listen to their bloody awesome lives – full of travel, dreams of new starts,  and giddy excitement about seeing old friends and families.

If you ever wanted your faith restored in humanity, spend a week in a candy store.

And as an ending note, in our experience, those who are going to steal, aren’t always who you expect. There are Mum’s with babies, men in suits, kids in Nike, conversational Germans and everything in between.  It’s easier to give up guessing and just be happy someone is in your store than spend time aggravating yourself accusing people in your head.

 

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Dark Days without coffee (part II)

Pregnant barbie

There are absolutely no words to describe the tiredness many women feel in the first three months of pregnancy, none.

I have gone to work in my early twenties after having gotten home three hours prior and have felt like a Disney character dancing with Bluebirds compared to how I felt in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Not only are you not allowed more than a cup of coffee a day to combat your zombie-like stupor, you’re apparently also not supposed to tell people you’re pregnant until 12 weeks, which severely limits your whinging ability.

Anyone who has worked in retail will know that one of the biggest drawbacks is that it can be excruciatingly boring. There will be days where the store is buzzing and hours fly by. But on others the seconds trickle by at the speed of a ladies’ toilet queue in a pub. Additionally, when it’s your own business, these customer-less seconds are each filled with an ever-growing feeling of stress.

Now, take those droning seconds of stress and add to that a pregnancy, tiredness and severe caffeine withdrawals and you have yourself one mentally unstable business owner. I think my partner got cried at, screamed at and scowled at in six months more than a mother of a two year old does in two years.

I’m not even sure how I managed to get anything done in those first few months. But I did. I came home worked nights, and actually achieved some business growth. It all made me suddenly more proud to be a woman, more aware of how strong they can be. Losing control of your body for nine months is scary and selfless and should be recognised more. I’m thinking a government-funded meal on wheels for every pregnant lady or a standing ovation every morning for being awake and not crying at work.

The bottom line is that we get through it, and despite struggling at times, the store progressed and sales got better. As with most posts I’ll finish up with some nuggets of information I learnt on my pregnancy road:

  1. Don’t Google pregnancy bodies in an attempt to raise self-esteem. Those that put their photos on the net are often those who are proud as punch that they still fit into their jeans six months along. The shape your body takes while pregnant isn’t really determined by you, so looking at others may simply make you depressed.
  2. Don’t Google “what to eat while pregnant”. Once you’ve been through various opinion blogs and mummy forums you’ll discover that you’re supposed to grow life on broccoli and steak (however, both must be served at exactly the right temperature and cooked by a 65 year old virgin)
  3. Don’t Google.

Me pregnant

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Dark Days without coffee (part I)

Retail blog:no-coffee-part-I

Yes! Sarkara had made it one year and sales were getting better and better by the month.

Along the road I had already learned so much about running a business. I had thought it was all so simple, but striving to establish a candy empire is not an easy task.

To help anyone looking at starting up a business I’ve put together this list of things you need to look at BEFORE launching your business:

  1. Think about the average amount each customer will spend each time they come into your store (optimism is not a great trait here).
  2. Realistically how many people will walk through your door each day? Find an established business (which is comparable), sit outside it on say a Saturday (busy day) and a Monday (slow day) and count how many customers come out with something in their hands. Then half this number of patrons for your unknown business.
  3. Finally, add up your costs. Rent, part time staff, window cleaning, Internet etc. and take this away from your expected earnings based on the first two points.
  4. Now you’ll have a much better idea on how tight things may be financially and how few days off you’ll have in order to save on staffing costs.

I’m acutely aware at how great the above advice is as I ignored almost all of it and have rued it ever since – so trust me on this one.

After a year in business it was time to look for ways of improving the store. There were lots of potential avenues to explore and although slightly exhausted, I was more than capable of handling retail expansion.

Funny, as it turned out, it would actually be my waist that would expand the most in 2015. By Easter I was pregnant with my first bubs. And underneath a lot of my stress and fear was a hell of a lot of excitement about being a Mum.

As with a lot of woman staring down the barrel of their mid-30s I had withdrawn my earlier 20 something bold belief that I didn’t want kids, and had decided that I actually kind of did. So for a few years prior I had been waking up in cold sweats during the night contemplating my potential barrenness for a few years. Which meant finding out I was pregnant was a pretty deliriously happy moment.

But my initial glee was evilly tainted as I Googled ‘how to be pregnant’ and discovered that caffeine should be severely limited during pregnancy. SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE F**K? Sarkara’s survival was now in serious trouble.

(See next week’s post to learn about keeping a business alive without coffee)

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One Woman’s One Metre Stride

Store fit-out survival story

A tale of surviving a store fit-out

So, in case you were wondering, starting up a business isn’t easy, glamorous or relaxing.

I had spent months in my former daytime role conceptualising my utopian business. A business so instantly powerful and impressive that Richard Branson came to me for a few tips just months after astounding the New Zealand public with my store. And what on Earth would I do with all the new money I was earning? Did I really need new shoes, or should I give it to charity?

Well, reality bites.

It took me a few months to find a suitable location and after I had finished picking my jaw up off the floor at the unjustifiably high commercial rents in Wellington (imagine London, just without the foot traffic) I signed a lease.

I’d like to tell you that I sat there with state-of-the art software skilfully designing all the individual elements of my store such as the counter, window display unit and shelves. Ensuring everything was precisely calculated and merged into a hella sleek sweet shop.

But instead I got on the Internet and Googled until I found things I liked and then pretty much hoped they all fitted into the store. I then busied myself finding the tradespeople who would obviously feel blessed to be part of such a unique store design.

If you decide to fit out a store, you’ll first need either one of two things a professionally drawn design or a tradesman that is gifted with patience and a willingness to go the extra mile.

The first of these is fairly easy to obtain, the second is like looking for kale in a candy store. After a lengthy search involving various male butt cracks, one fart in the vicinity of my face and an uncountable number of condescending smiles I found a small group of skilled men who were willing to do the work as per the designs I handed them on a paper napkin.

These guys were great, and I’m pretty pleased at how the store has actually worked. It’s the wee break from a dreary Wellington day that I had imagined. If you are going to lure people away from Internet shopping then ensure you’ve got a store that makes them feel comfortable, welcomed and happy.

But despite the store’s positives my advice is that a professional drawing would’ve been worth the money. There are slight inconveniences in spacing and shelving which could have so easily been avoided. Sarkara is a small space, and every inch counted – precision was key to perfection.

To make sure you’ve gotten the most out of spending time reading this post I thought I’d share some insider lessons on shop fit-outs:

  1. Get at least two quotes for each job. Then screw them up and go with your gut. It’s not just about price (although granted, it’s a factor), but it’s also about having a tradesman you can rely on, who does a good job and who you get on with.
  2. Be prepared to be supervising work every day. Nasty charges appear in final invoices if you’re not there to ask why ‘extras’ need to be done, or insure people are working hard during the hours you’ll be billed for.
  3. All men’s strides measure exactly a metre; so don’t ever think of using your tiny woman legs to measure things. This is exactly the type of silly behaviour that’ll earn you a condescending smile.
  4. Don’t let anyone make you feel silly. It’s not up to you to stop people from patronising you, but it is up to you to fortify yourself and believe that your vision is valid.
  5. Being a female does make it a wee bit harder, there’s no doubt that you’ll be taken less seriously by some. But as with point #4 it’s all in your hands to believe that YOU CAN DO IT!

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